EU Biomass Case Denied Access to The Courts
Applicants considering appeal
May 12, 2020
In March 2019 applicants from six countries including the USA brought a claim stating that the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) will devastate forests and increase greenhouse gas emissions by promoting burning forest wood as renewable and carbon neutral. On 11 May 2020 the EU Court published an order that the applicants who have brought this case, including individuals and groups from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania and Slovakia, do not have legal standing and that it will not therefore make a decision on whether or not the biomass provisions of RED II should be annulled.The court’s decision and the case’s main argument are available here.
Dr Mary Booth, the director of the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), who spearheaded the case and was an expert witness, said:
“We disagree with the Court’s finding on standing. The Court should strike down the biomass provisions of the RED II due to their incompatibility with core principles of EU environmental law. The European Commission’s own science staff have stated that ‘sustainability’ criteria such as those included in the RED II are ‘not sufficient to ensure climate change mitigation,’ an important admission that the EU put in place Potemkin sustainability criteria that do not protect forests and the climate. It is critical that the court hear this case, which is of fundamental importance to EU climate policy. We are working with the applicants and legal advisers to determine whether the applicants will bring an appeal against this decision which denies them access to the courts.”
Since the case was filed, additional evidence of the damage inflicted by the biomass industry has emerged, with new reports of logging old-growth for wood pellets, not just in US, but in British Columbia’s inland rainforest, Estonia, and Romania’s Carpathian Mountains. Evidence has additionally emerged that air pollution, including that from wood burning power plants, dramatically increases susceptibility to Covid-19, highlighting additional costs of burning wood for renewable energy. The technology is supported by large subsidies; a recent report found that EU member states are paying out over €6.5 billion in subsidies per year to biomass burning facilities, a figure that does not include additional support to increase residential wood burning.
Dr. Booth said, “The EU has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050 and is proposing to dramatically strengthen GHG reduction targets. Paying people to burn wood for energy and simply counting the emissions as zero, as the EU now does, is hollowing out forests and actually increasing GHG emissions. Stopping this practice is essential climate mitigation – which is what we desperately need.”
Plaintiffs from Estonia, France, Ireland, Romania, Slovakia, and the US brought the case based on the harms from logging and biomass burning they have already suffered, and anticipation of future impacts as financial support for bioenergy continues to soar. The plaintiffs represent areas that have been particularly hard hit, such as Estonia, the Carpathian Mountain forests in eastern Europe, where some of Europe’s last remaining primeval forests are being intensively logged, and as far afield as the US South East where natural forests are being clear felled and burned to fuel the EU industry.
In addition to PFPI, the Center for Climate Integrity (US) and Fern (EU) provided support and assistance to the case and to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Leigh Day, Matrix Chambers, and 11KBW, all with offices based in London.